NBA 2014-15 Power Rankings Preview: #6 Golden State Warriors

Can Steph Curry and company finally bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy to the Bay Area?

This NBA offseason has been very eventful, and the preseason is now in full swing. To help hoops junkies with the transition from the lull of summer back to competitive basketball, we here at numberFire will be rolling out our projections for next season in the form of team previews, starting at 30 and going all the way to number one. We continue today with the 6th-ranked Golden State Warriors!

The Golden State Warriors are doing everything in their power to reclaim a generation of lost local fans.

The Run TMC Warriors went 50-32 all the way back in the 1993-94 season.


Then the franchise fell off a cliff with 12 straight losing seasons including 6 years in a row with 21 or fewer wins! Until… a progression of NBA miracles happened, the Dubs drafted Monta Ellis with the 40th pick, stole a frustrated Baron Davis from the then-New Orleans Hornets, flipped two tall white guys (Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy) to Indiana for Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, and had a feisty small ball contender.

With that corps, the Warriors toppled a 67-win Dallas team in the first round of the 2007 playoffs behind a ludicrous series from Davis, put up a fight against Utah in the second round, won 48 games the following season (but didn’t make the playoffs) then crumbled once again.

That poor, sad, decrepit fan base.

Six seasons (four losing, two winning,) three coaching changes, two more tall white guys, one regime change, and a whole bunch of Oracle Arena sellouts later, the Warriors are set to begin the 2014-15 season with hopes to contend for the franchise's first title in forty years.

numberFire Metrics

Projected Record: 49-33
Western Conference Rank: 5th
NBA Rank: 6th
nERD: 61.9
Playoff Chances: 83.46%
Championship Chances: 5.85%

We project the Warriors to pull off the rarely seen ‘sacrifice wins for playoff seeding’ maneuver. Last year’s team won 51 games but finished 6th in the conference. We project last year’s 54-win Portland Trailblazers to stumble and flip-flop in the standings with the Dubs. Like most good teams in the West, the Warriors playoff chances (83.46%) are way better than their title chances (5.85%).

Such is life when the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers and Rockets eminently loom.

Player Movement

Notable Additions
Shaun Livingston (via free agency)
Leandro Barbosa (via free agency)
Brandon Rush (via free agency)

Notable Losses
Steve Blake (via free agency)
Hilton Armstrong (waived)

While Steve Blake brought balance to a bench unit that was mediocre at best, he faded in the playoffs and ultimately didn’t fit into the Warriors ‘championship’ equation. In a February interview last year Hilton Armstrong publicly thanked the Warriors for ‘calling a play for him’ – his first since HIGH SCHOOL! Not exactly a pair of devastating losses.

Conversely, the Warriors additions are all talented backups with starter upside.

Last year, Shaun Livingston was resurrected and shined for Jason Kidd’s Nets. His unique height for a point guard (he’s 6’7”) allows him to see over most perimeter defenders on offense and guard multiple positions on defense. He should allow Klay Thompson to rest, both on D and on the bench.

Barbosa will most likely be used as a spark off the bench, a la 2007 Monta Ellis. He’s electric in the open court and can finish around the rim but lacks the consistency exhibited by top-flight scorers. In his 10-year career, Barbosa has averaged over 24 points per 48 minutes played.

The Brandon Rush signing is a total flier. He was terrific as a ‘three and D’ guy for the 2011-12 Dubs, shooting over 45% from downtown, but has had terrible injury luck since then – under 450 minutes in two seasons.

Three Burning Questions

Will this be the sexiest team in the league?
First, let’s talk parameters. For me (and ultimately, this is my call, so there!) sexy is defined by the few moments each game that make you go ‘wow!,’ so long as they’re not weighed down by a plethora of free throw attempts, mid-range bricks, zero pass possessions, complaining, flopping and whatever else bothers us as fans. The Dubs enjoy the advantage of starting on the Steph Curry Plateau. Throw in five helpings of Klay Thompson quick release trey-bombs, a dash of Harrison Barnes highlight reel dunks, a few Andre Iguodala behind the back passes, a pinch of Andrew Bogut getting underneath the skin of opposing bigs, and baby you got a sexy hoops stew goin’.

Other contenders include the Spurs, Blazers, Rockets, Cavs and Clippers, but a few of these teams have major drawbacks. The Spurs win too many blowouts (though they would win for the ‘sexiest librarian’ team for the basketball nerds like myself), the Rockets shoot too many foul shots, and the Clippers flop and complain more than Cristiano Ronaldo.

So it’s down to the Blazers, Cavs, and Warriors. All three have electrifying offensive point guards, fast paced systems, knock down shooters at three plus positions and great home crowds. But the Blazers and Warriors don’t have the best player in the world, so I’m giving the preseason nod for sexiest team in the league to the revamped Cleveland Cavaliers.

The point is that the Warriors are not only one of the best teams in the league but also they are going to be a worthwhile watch every night - provided you live on the west coast or can stay awake until 1:30 a.m. to watch.

Will the Splash Brothers be the best backcourt in the league?

Here are last season’s top five scoring backcourt duos.

Backcourt Tandem (Team)PointsAssistsStealsnERDEfficiency
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (GSW)42.412.02.716.84.6
Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan(TOR)
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (PHX)
Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews (POR)
John Wall and Bradley Beal (WAS)36.411.

nERD measures a player’s (or in this case, set of teammates’) contribution to their team’s win total over the course of an 82-game season. Efficiency measures the team’s point differential while that player is on the floor, based on league average starter minutes.

Steph and Klay led every category except steals per game. They have the most experience with one another and should improve on efficiency with new head coach Steve Kerr’s pass-happy offense (the Warriors ranked dead last in total passes completed last season). The two also spent the summer practicing with and competing against the top competition in the rest of the world. No other NBA team sent both of its backcourt members to the FIBA World Championship. It’s not unthinkable, but it will be an upset if Curry and Thompson don’t last at least one more year as top dogs.

And now, the question about which you’ve all already voiced your opinion. Should the Warriors have pulled the trigger on the Kevin Love trade?
Let's assume the trade was Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and David Lee for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin.

Warriors GetPointsReboundsAssistsnERDEfficiency
Kevin Love26.112.54.417.75.5
Kevin Martin19.131.82.61

T'Wolves GetPointsReboundsAssistsnERDEfficiency
Klay Thompson18.
David Lee18.211.23.562.1
Harrison Barnes9.541.5-2.8-1

Wow! The Warriors would would have given up 3 players with a combined nERD of 5.6 for 2 with a combined nERD of 20.3! They would have coupled Steph Curry with Kevin Love. That's the best shooting point guard and power forward (and coach) combination in league history by far. They would have thrown those two out there with Bogut and Iguodala and rolled the dice with the rest of the roster. It would have been quite the experiment.

So why didn't the Dubs go through with it? Seems like a no-brainer.

Curry and Love are constant injury risks. Bogut seemingly goes down with a fresh freak injury every year. Iggy missed nineteen games last year.

Curry and Love also wouldn't be an ideal pairing for stopping the pick-and-roll to say the least.

Plus it would have sacrificed the familiarity of the Warriors corps that had made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in twenty seasons.

So should they have pulled the trigger? numberFire says yes. A million times yes, but Warriors General Manager Bob Myers said no, so we'll never know.

Fantasy Hoops Stock Watch

SG Klay Thompson (Yahoo O-Rank:38)
I'm not drafting Klay Thompson. His value isn't expressed through the surface stats that drive fantasy basketball. Sure, he pours in 18 points per game at a position that lacks current NBA stars. He's also a near lock for top five in made threes and will almost certainly play big minutes every game this year (one missed game in three seasons.)

Klay's shot is gorgeous, and his defense is much more valuable than his one steal per game might indicate. But you don't get points for having a quick release and defending the best perimeter player each night. Look around the league, every team is shooting and making threes. Arron Afflalo is currently going 86th and had a slightly better 2013-14 fantasy season than Klay did, and he's back with a fast paced Denver offense. If you're drafting Klay in the third round, you're banking on a massive improvement after a summer of high level competition and coaching - possible, but not likely.

SF/PF David Lee (Yahoo O-Rank: 64)
David Lee is on a steady statistical decline as he enters his tenth NBA season.

Lee's ProductionPointsReboundsAssistsStealsBlocks

With the meteoric rise of the "'best shooting backcourt of all time," Lee's usage rate has slowly declined. However, his offensive efficiency has held steady and he should provide a high floor as a second power forward. Just know that if you're taking Lee, you're punting blocks, which might be the most underrated fantasy statistical category of all.